In what used to be the place you would normally find an Environment Canada weather icon for sun/cloud/rain/fog and so on, there is now one for smoke. This is new, at least to me. The Greater Toronto Area has been known as “The Big Smoke” all my life. But I have never experienced it literally.
The smoke is due to forest fires blowing from Northeastern Ontario and Quebec. We are warned to stay indoors and not exercise outside until the smoke clears, which is predicted to be the day after tomorrow.
Florida’s finest. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has so far spent $13.5m to recruit police officers from other states, targeting those who had been frustrated by various vaccine manndates in the past. While touting the recruiting of America’s “best and finest”, many of them have had past arrests for crimes such as kidnapping and murder. Most of them, however, were disciplined for more mundane things like uttering racial slurs, unlawful use of pepper spray, driving their cars into crowds of protestors, you know, DeSantis’s kind of people. (22 May)
Weird. Just effing weird. Click if you want.
The state of Sex. According to a recent survey by condom manufacturer Trojan, about 1 in 8 men under 35 bring a condom to a funeral, usually in their wallet. (26 May)
The graduating class of ’23. In Marlin, Texas, about 200 highway miles (320 km) northwest of Houston, the graduating class of Marlin High School has a grand total of 5 students eligible for diplomas out of 33 possible students. It appears that attendance records and grades are to blame. (25 May)
There is a little time left before the robots take over. A man named Roberto Mata sued the airline Avianca over an injury to his knee from a serving cart. His lawyers (there was more than one?) submitted a 10-page brief to judge Kevin Castel. The judge reviewed it, and could not find a single case cited by the brief in all of his fact-checking. It turned out, it was written using ChatGPT, which invented the entire brief, whole-cloth. (27 May)
World record not yet broken. On the 21st of May, Kyle, Texas had the largest gathering of people with the same first name, namely Kyle. Both men and women showed up with that name, there was loud music, carnival attractions, “Kyle Fair” hats and “Kyle Fair” T-shirts sold, but with 2,325 Kyles in one place, the attendance was still 835 Kyles short of a world record.
The encroaching immigrants. New York State representative Mike Lawler went to Fox News, armed with anecdotes from veteran’s groups that they were kicked out of a residence they were in, and replaced by migrants”. Lawler had his hair on fire. He said he would announce a bill that would prohibit the displacement of veterans in response to the migrant crisis. The problem was, not only was the story a sham, it was also revealed that a group of civilian homeless men in New York City were paid to lie about their veteran status to reporters, in exchange for a bribe of $200 plus some toiletries. (20 May) No veterans were ever found displaced.
Three reasons to watch late night talk shows. Russia has banned entry to 500 Americans, including Barack Obama, in response to US-led sanctions. There were also a number of other American politicians, along with US public figures and media celebrities perceived to be “Russiaphobic”. Among them were late night talk show hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Seth Meyers. (19 May) Joe Scarborough and Rachel Maddow also made the list.
And how is that cure for cancer coming along? On May 16, A group of physicists submitted their findings into the journal Physics of Fluids, which investigated the processing, production, ideal storage conditions, ideal moisture content, ideal starch content, and ideal pH, of gummi bear candies.
Clear the path! It’s gonna blow! On May 2, Chicago police spotted a “suspicious package” lying on the road on the 200 block of Chicago’s South State Street. The road and sidewalk were ordered shut down to both traffic and pedestrians. In addition, the Red Line section of underground subway was also sealed off. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed to be a can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli scotchtaped to a set of skateboard wheels. A local FOX news affiliate also found that it belonged to a student at Chicago’s DePaul University, who intended it to be a prototype for a class project. The police later found the student, questioned him, and ticketed him for the incident, though it is not clear to anyone what law he violated.
The Death Hit Parade. Dropping down the charts of the leading causes of death in United States, is Covid-19, falling behind heart disease, cancer, and overdoses, motor vehicle fatalities and shootings, according to ABC News. ABC News cites the CDC, but I was unable to find the data at the CDC when I did my fact-checking.
The future is here. After help-line workers at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) voted to unionize, CEO Elizabeth Thompson made a surprise announcement, that all help-line worker jobs would be eliminated and replaced by a chatbot. NEDA is headquartered in White Plains, New York, but have mostly an online presence. All newly-unionized employees will be jobless as of June 1. (4 May)
Breaking the Internet. Senator for the Minnesota state legislature Calvin Barr participated in a vote over a Zoom call, shirtless with a Schoolhouse Rock cartoon in the background. It has now inspired memes including a cockatiel drinking green “unsee juice” from a cocktail glass through a straw. (1 May)
The right way to go with a presidential bid. On May 11, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that exempts any records related to his travel from public disclosure. By contrast, by Florida’s sweeping Government-In-The-Sunshine Law, all other government proceedings must be made public, including arrests of the mentally ill. The new bill is so expansive as to include any trips arranged by DeSantis’s office even when he isn’t involved. The law applies retroactively and will apply to the entire time he served as governor. It appears timed to keep damaging information about DeSantis’s travel from getting out as he is expected to announce his campaign for president.
The law applies to you and not to me. Congressman George Santos voted in support of a bill on 11 May called “Protecting Taxpayers and Victims of Unemployment Fraud Act”, providing incentives to states who lost money due to unemployment insurance fraud during the COVID lockdowns. The irony is that Santos is facing charges for precisely the same kind of fraud. During the lockdown, as he was earning a $120,000 salary as the regional director of an investment firm, he applied for and received unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
Dickie Berg goes limp. Last week in Harbour Grace, NL, it was reported that the tip of the penis-shaped iceberg had broken off. By now it is likely that much of the rest has melted away into a shapeless, limp mass. The facts surrounding the “Dickie Berg” are just too much: A penis-shaped iceberg floating in the bay, photographed using a drone by a fella from Dildo named Kenneth Pretty. It just writes itself. There is nothing more to say. [28 Apr]
The Popcorn Bandit of Anchorage. Staffers at a movie theatre in Anchorage, Alaska were cleaning out the popcorn machine on May 3 when a young moose smelling food walked in through an open door and ignoring the staff, it found a trashcan and began to eat from it. After a few minutes, the moose finally wandered back outdoors.
Open for applicants. A zoo in Blackpool, England, whose job posting for an “outgoing” and “friendly” person to dress in a bird costume to scare away seagulls from its zoo has “broke the internet” with an avalanche of applications from around the world. Apart from being outgoing and friendly, the potential hire must be an “excellent flapper”, according to zoo officials. (27 Apr)
An orchestral climax. Witnesses at a concert at the LA Philharmonic’s performance of Tchiakovsky’s Fifth Symphony thought they heard a woman in the audience have a full-body orgasm, which appeared timed to a passage in the music. Many witnesses at the concert were interviewed, and they appear to disagree on many of the details. (27 April)
Los Angeles is a sparawling city, the third largest in North America after New York City and Mexico City with a population of just over 3.8 million people. It is the home to much of America’s film industry, the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame.
I had reason one day to look at a map of Los Angeles under Google Maps. I was more surprised to find out what wasn’t part of LA almost as much as what was. Looking at the map, there is this thin strip running south to Long Beach — except that Long Beach isn’t actually part of LA. It runs next to Long Beach. Torrance and Inglewood are our first enclaves, being surrounded by either the Pacific Ocean or LA. In this part of LA, I am also glossing over other weird things the border seems to do around Long Beach, and this nameless enclave which seems to pop out of nowhere:
It is basically a rectangle of land completely surrounded by LA. But there is also Culver City with the same situation. Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey are that way too, surrounded on all other sides by LA but for the Pacific Ocean. But probably the most famous enclaves are Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Universal City. While San Fernando is definitely an enclave, Burbank and Pasadena are not, not being surrounded on all sides by Los Angeles. And there are more namless enclaves, such as the one that pops out of nowhere in Franklin Canyon Park just north of Beverly Hills.
And there is another nameless enclave near UCLA between Sanata Monica and Beverly Hills:
It has plenty of places apparently affiliated with Veterans Affairs with “Los Angeles” in the name, but are not actually part of LA. Looks federal.
Los Angeles is on the far south of California. The next major city further south would be San Diego, near the Mexican border. Rather than enclaves, San Diego appears to have two or more exclaves: parts of San Diego which are separate from the main city, and surrounded by other geographic areas.
The most striking exclave of San Diego is the one bordering Mexico, a few miles south of the main part of the city, surrounded only by Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, a national park, and the Mexican city of Tijuana.
I try to think of what Canadian equivalents are there to such crazy borders. Toronto is a poor candidate, being a nearly rectangular city with no enclaves or exclaves to speak of. Toronto is a simple layout, extending as it does between Etobicoke Creek in the east to Rouge Valley Park on the Scarborough outskirts in the west; then from Steeles Avenue in the north, proceeding south to Lake Ontario. Simple. Toronto may have had such weird borders at one time, but amalgamation in the 1990s of the “5 boroughs” (Etobicoke, North York, East York, metro Toronto, and Scarborough) made it simple, as well as making it North America’s fourth largest metropolis, trailing Los Angeles in population.
But there is Montreal, Canada’s second largest city. Bill 22 back in the Rene Levesque days made the province of Quebec largely unilingual and French within a bilingual country. To this day, there are still English-speaking neighbourhoods which are not actually part of Montreal. In particular, Hampstead, Westmount, and Mount-Royal (to the point of having English stop signs, and apparently being exempted from the French-only signage law). Other enclaves are Cote Saint-Luc and Montreal-West, which are more bilingual, are surrounded by Montreal. Another enclave is an industrial district connected with Montreal-East, if you ignore that it is bounded by the St. Lawrence River to the east.
Montreal had always been confusing to me for another reason. The island lies along the river at a kind of slant from southwest to northeast. Coming from Toronto, I am used to the body of water (Lake Ontario in the case of Toronto) lying to the south, with streets generally running east-west parallel to the lake; while cross streets were generally north-south; making it easy to get the compass directions pretty much correct. You can’t do that with Montreal.
The main part of the St. Lawrence River lies to the south, or depending on where you are, to the east. So if you are used to having the body of water to the south, you’re in trouble.
Computers with a bit of damned cheek. ChatGPT-4 was administered a final exam in Quantum Information Science (a senior undergrad course for honors students), for which University of Texas at Austin professor Scott Aaronson gave it to his TA, who assessed it and gave it a B (actually a C+, since it scored 69/100 for a class average of 74.4). ChatGPT then responded by writing an email complaining to dean Eric Meyer, asking him for a better grade. In its five paragraphs, ChatGPT highlighted its “strong grasp of the material” and its ability to “ask insightful questions” during lessons. The dean has since sent back the test to Aaronson for reconsideration. (13 April)
Taking one for the team. In Texas, a woman only known by her first name, Miranda, was asked by DoorDash to complete her husband’s food delivery after he got into a car accident and ended up in the Emergency ward of a local hospital during that delivery run. (15 April)
White House breach. On the side of the White House facing Lafayette Square, where the security fences are 13 feet high, someone had broken through the barricade. It was a toddler, not more than three years old. He was snatched up by the secret service and quickly reunited with his parents. (18 April)
The findings of the scientific community. Recent scientific findings show that showing pornography to their human test subjects made the idea of sex with a robot to be more appealing than usual. Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal studied 321 university students by showing them a sexually explicit video, then got them to complete a two-part online survey which they claim measured their subjects’ “ability to have sex, love, and engage in an intimate relationship with a robot versus a human. While both men and women scored high on this survey, men scored higher, showing a greater willingness to have sex with a robot. But I just want to know: how is that cure for cancer coming along? (JSR, Nov 2022)
The Police Blotter. This was a week of shootings of children and teens in America: A black teen who had come to the house of an elderly Fox News fanatic by mistake was shot; a Texan shot two cheerleaders who opened his car door thinking it was their own; a North Carolina resident shot a six year-old and her parents because a basketball rolled on to his yard; and an upstate New Yorker shot a woman because she accidentally backed into his driveway.
Calypso singer and human rights activist Harry Belafonte died earlier this afternoon at his New York home of congestive heart failure. He was 96.
Belafonte was among the first recording artists to break the race barrier in American radio stations with his first album, Calypso, recorded in 1955. It became the first record album to sell over 1 million copies, and yielded hits such as Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), Jamaica Farewell and Man Smart, Woman Smarter. Calypso stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for almost 2 years.
And reparations are soft served. Last week’s mystery of the stolen DQ spoon in Phoenix, Arizona, was found a mere 2 kilometers from the heist, a few days ago by 52 year-old Micheal Foster, who was out playing Pokemon Go at 7 in the morning for some reason. He called the local police, who then strapped the giant spoon on to the top of their police cruiser, to be delivered to the rightful owners. Regular readers of my column would have also asked, will Foster get his free summer-long treat of Dairy Queen Blizzards? Foster said he wasn’t really interested. Police are still investigating the crime, and now say that two young males and one female were involved, according to the video footage now in their possession.
Only in the United States: Telling youngsters to plan their death. A newly-hired 63 year-old high school Psychology teacher Jeffrey Keene in Orlando, Florida was fired during his probationary period because he gave his class of 35 kids an assignment to the effect of: in the event there is a mass shooting in the school, what would you like to have written on your obiturary? School board officials interviewed several of his students , then decided his assignment was inappropriate, and then decided to terminate Keene’s contract, which can be done immediately to probationary teachers in most school districts. Keene doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. In Florida public schools, new hires become probationary teachers, which are not members of the teacher’s union and whose employment can be terminated for any reason.
A dispute involving a red herring. On April 5, a customer at a fish market in Detroit, Michigan became angry after the clerk had closed its checkout till at 7PM for Ramadan, and so he picked up a frozen 4-pound herring and hit the clerk over the head with it. The victim was transported to hospital, and the assailant, one Jobul Hussein, was charged with aggrivated assault and posted on a $5000 bond.
Art comes to life. At a live stage performance on 5 April of The Yuppies Invade My House at Dinnertime at the Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken New Jersey, based on a book co-written by Joe Barry in 1987, the real Joe Barry (now 80 years old) stormed onstage yelling “This is all lies!”, knocking over a set piece before being escorted out of the theatre by police. No arrests were made. The play resumed after he left. According to eyewitnesses, Barry was said to have began heckling around the time the performers got to the part explaining that during the 1970s and 80s in Hoboken, fires were often deliberately set in order to remove the tenants and open the properties for gentrification and redevelopment. Barry was heavily involved in the sale and construction of these luxury dwellings, and was among the biggest investors. Barry had been found guilty in 2004 and had already spent a year in federal prison, for, among other things, offering local politicians $114,900 in bribes.
Man arrested for scaring chickens to death. OK, so Geartape.com reports that on April 9, there are these two Chinese men living in Hengyang county of Hunan Province, only known by their surnames, Gu and Zhong. Zhong cuts down trees in Gu’s property, Gu gets upset, and in the middle of the night, he goes into Zhong’s chicken coop with a flashlight causing chickens to panic and crowd into a corner of the coop, causing 500 to die the first night, then on another night (after being charged), another 640 to die in the same way. Gu was caught in the act both times. Gu now owes Zhong $2015, or 13,840 Yuan for the 1,140 dead chickens.
The school of whatever goes.Donda Academy, a K-12 private school near Los Angeles, owed by Rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, is defending itself from a lawsuit where there were several strange rules to conform to Ye’s personal quirks. The most serious problems, however, involve strangers being allowed to take kids home without parent/guardian verification; children’s medicines being strewn about the school and found in places such as custodial closets or on top of microwave ovens; unmanaged and pervasive bullying and other behavour issues; selling kids only sushi for lunch and then forcing them to eat on the floor since the school has no chairs or tables. Prior to the lawsuit, the two plaintiffs, both teachers at the school, were served termination letters in the school parking lot last month with no explanation.
Just call me Mo: Mo Dollars.Al Jazeera reports that money connected with gold smuggling were laundered in banks in South Africa. The bank employees did so accepting bribes from an accomplice of Zimbabwean tobacco magnate Simon Rudland, known to law enforcement as “Mo Dollars”, whose real name appears to be Mohammad Khan, who runs an asset management firm in South Africa and is connected to several false companies.
The Pee Pee Tapes. All I have to say is: Lauren Bobert, soft on crime accusations, pee pee. Watch video from: UK Guardian.
Cultured meat, only in the sense that it was cultured from a Petri dish. Food scientists have now come up with a way to inject DNA from an extinct woolly mammoth into a stem cell of a sheep, then growing the cells in vitro to give the world the latest in Frankenfood: Mammoth Meaballs. Meat grown in a laboratory has been legal in the United States since last year, but have not had yet passed the legal hurdles to make it to supermarket shelves. The Mammoth Meatball presented to an audience in The Amsterdam Science Museum by Australian “inventor” Tim Noakesmith on March 29 appears to be around 6 inches in diameter. More than 100 companies around the world are currently working on cultured meat products.
Spoon theft, and the getaway vehicle. Two thieves in Arizona were caught on surveillance video stealing a 15-foot red spoon which adorned the side of a Dairy Queen in Phoenix, according to the Associated Press. The two were seen making their getaway on a small motorbike. The police are investigating. No suspects have been identified. A reward of one Blizzard treat from every flavour of the summer menu is being offered for anyone returning the giant spoon to the restaurant. Said franchise co-owner Raman Kalra: “I appeal to the person: This spoon is too big to eat anything. We want you to bring it back. We will not ask any questions.”
But you need to take me seriously! A lawsuit filed by Aimen Halim in Illinois against Buffalo Wild Wings alleges that the “boneless wings” they have on their menu are not actually deboned chicken wings, but instead are chicken breast meat, breaded and fried like chicken wings, and thus constitutes false advertising on the part of B-dubs. When asked by reporters, B-Dubs reps pointed them to their Twitter account, which announces in the banner of their feed: “It’s true. Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken. Our hamburgers contain no ham. Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.” (14 Mar)
More food in the news. Kraft-Heinz this month has presented to American children their “Lunchables”, to be sold in school cafeterias across the United States. It comes in two varieties: “Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stacker”, and “Extra Cheesy Pizza”. They purport to consist of meat and meat “alternatives”, and the version sold in grocery stores provide your growing youngster with 750 mg of sodium, which is 63% of what a child under 13 needs out of a whole day. This is not to mention the high amount of saturated fat it contains. Kraft-Heinz are on the verge of rolling out a Lunchables product that meets stricter government guidelines to be sold in school cafeterias, although company brass are afraid it might cause kids to be “confused” as to why it doesn’t taste the same as their grocery store product. (14 Mar)
Coke from the sea. 5060 pounds of cocaine in sealed bags washed up on the shores of Normandy, located on France’s northern coast on March 2. It is unclear of the source or the reason. It has been noted that most cocaine enters Europe through ports along the North Sea, such as Le Havre, or Rotterdam, Antwerp or Hamburg. French authorities report seizing 59,000 pounds (29.7 tons) in 2022. (2 Mar)
With a sprinkling of dried crickets. A German ice cream parlor has, among its unusual ice cream flavours such as Gorgonzola or liver sausage, now wants you to try their cricket-flavoured scoop with a dried brown cricket on top. The EU now allows certain insect ingredients in food, such as flour beetle larvae and migratory locusts in food. The bulk of the ice cream is made with cricket flour. (2 Mar)
YASRS (Yet another stupid robber story). In Glasgow, Ireland, a 45 year-old man attempted to rob a teen coming from an ATM at knifepoint, who turned out to be his own son. The father, who later confessed, is now serving 26 months in jail. (10 Mar)
Trying to impress the tourists. Two middle-aged Americans in Mexico seeking a cheap tummy tuck surgery were found by police after a search lasting several days. The two Americans kidnapped by a gang called The Scorpion Group because they were mistaken for members of a rival group of drug traffickers. The minivan the Americans were travelling in carrying North Carolina plates was found riddled with bullet holes, and two other American travelling companions with them had died during the shootout. Of the survivors, one was injured. The fact that the police responded at all was considered unusual, likely because these were American tourists. This is contrasted by the fact that there are presently more than 112,000 Mexican citizens missing or kidnapped at the hands of drug cartels, many missing over several years, with the only people searching for them being family members and relatives. (8 Mar)
YASRS, the second instalment. Liu Moufu of China’s Hubei province stole 156 yuan (approximately CAN$31) from a gas station in 2009, 14 years ago. He had two accomplices for this heist, and he had heard that they were arrested after they parted, and ever since Liu has been living in a cave, 10 km from the nearest human settlment, to evade authorities. He lived with several stray dogs to evade wild animals, keeping himself alive by hunting and scavenging for food. Now over 50 years old, he surrendered himself to authorities and now faces 3 to 10 years in prison for robbery using a weapon. (10 Mar)
You do not appreciate the depths of the f*ck which I do not give. On March 8, Quebec court judge Dennis Galiatsatos found Montreal resident Neall Epstein not guilty of criminal harassment involving threats, in particular, giving his neighbour “the finger”. The judge defended flipping the bird as a “God-given, charter-enshrined right belonging to every red-blooded Canadian. It may not be civil, it may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly. Nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability.” Judge Galiatsatos further expressed a wish that he could literally, not just figuratively, throw the case out of court. The prosecution is not considering appealing the Judge’s decision.
Our food was never touched by human hands. The food kit supplier, HelloFresh, will stop selling coconut milk imported from Thailand, amid allegations of forced monkey labour, leading to pressure from animal rights activists. Thailand has 80% of the market share of coconut milk. (6 Mar)
The Fight for Religious Equality. In Philadelphia, admininistrators for the Saucon Valley Middle School had given permission to members of the Satanic Temple to have meeting space for an “after-school Satanic Club” aimed at children between grades 6 and 8. The school board could not deny the permit, based on religious freedom. But due to threatening calls the Superintendent’s office had received, which caused the closure of the school for a day, they are now suspending the permit, citing a “disruption of school operations”.
Your government at work.Florida bill 932 now makes it illegal for dog owners to allow their pets to hang their heads out of car windows. It also threatens vets who declaw cats for non-medical reasons with a revocation of their license. In addition, a Floridian can no longer sell rabbits on streets or flea markets. Among the consequences lawbreakers will suffer will be to have their names placed for 3 years on an animal abuse registry.
Oopsies! According to the New York Post, 42 passport documents were accidentally thrown into a paper shredder by employees at the Kancamagus Lodge in Lincoln, New Hampshire, leaving British high school students who arrived there on a ski tour, stranded. Before returning to England, the students had to go to the British embassy in New York City where emergecy documents were being prepared. They will be leaving for home on Tuesday, four days later than planned.
45 Days, 67 Gun Fatalities. The mass shooting by a 43 year-old gunman on the campus of Michigan State University on 13 February is, 45 days into 2023, the 67th mass shooting in the United States, with 105 dead in the either through accidents, murder, or mass shooting sprees (13 Feb). Two days later, on 15 February, legislators in West Virginia passed a bill to allow concealed carry of firearms on university campuses despite overwhelming opposition from students.
Community for you but not for me. One day after that, on 16 February, administrators at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University had to apologize for sending an email emphasizing the importance of community to their students and families in the aftermath of the Michigan mass shooting, written in ChatGPT. Wrote Laith Kayat in their student newspaper: “There is a sick and twisted irony to making a computer write your message about community and togetherness because you can’t be bothered to reflect on it yourself.”
Super pigs! In the prarie provinces and the northern midwest US states, populations of wild “super” pigs, a cross between domestic pigs and wild boars, have exploded over the past 8 years. Super pigs are highly intelligent, highly elusive, can weigh as much as 500 pounds, and can survive prairie winters which can get as cold as -30 (-50 with wind chill) by burying themselves in the snow — even creating a den out of cattail grass to insulate themselves in their snowy burrow. They can hide in bushes, forests and wetlands and be extremely hard to find for hunters wishing to control their populations. They cause damage to property and can kill larger wildlife and livestock. Super pigs have by now become “too established”, according to wildlife biologists, to control by hunting. (Feb 20)
Warning: Mature subject matter; Violence involving death; panders to the worst stereotypes
Asian fail. This one from the South China Morning Post, via MSN: “I did the worst thing out of the best motivation,” said Yang Juming to police. He was in his home in Southwest China, and after an online meeting with a teacher, stabbed his 13 year-old son with a Samurai sword in an attempt to get him to study harder. The child died of his wounds on the way to hospital. (Feb 14)
Divine providence as a security system. A drunken 32 year-old Carlos Alonzo broke and entered into the Church of Christ The King in Monterrey, Mexico and left with a statue of St. Michael the Archangel. As he staggered out of the church with the statue, he tripped and fell on the statue’s sword, seriously wounding his neck. A passer-by called for medical help, and he was soon turned over to Moterrey police. The statue was unharmed. [17 Jan] This is the second attempted theft of a replica of the St. Michael statue over the past 12 months, the previous one being of a different replica housed in France this past October.
McCarthy-era schools come to the UK. In Hylands School in Chelmsford, Essex (UK), near London, students are not allowed to have “relationships” or to touch “any other member of the school community”, according to the Telegraph. The justifications include encouraging “mutual respect” and “professional behaviour” expected in a workplace by their future employers. Many parents are withdrawing their kids from the school, saying that it does not allow their kids to learn about healthy relationships, or to learn what touching is appropriate or inappropriate. [10 Jan]
Fight for your right to malinger. 24 year-old Dyneisha Holliday, a former employee at a store called Family Dollar, was let go by her boss because she called in sick too often. After she was let go, she arrived in the store, threatening her ex-boss with a gun, but then put the gun back in her holster, and threw a stapler at the boss. She is being held on charges of reckless endangerment and aggrivated assault. [Jan 6]
Just today, in Newport News, Virginia, a teacher, a woman in her 30s, at Richneck Elementary School got shot by a 6 year-old with a gun. This is barely into the first week of 2023.
Time for some sobering stats:
In th US, 41% of school shooters are students, but only 1.6% of all shootings occur in a K-8 school. This is according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, maintained by David Reidman. The data goes back to 1971, recording a total of 571 gun fatalities occurring in schools up to October of 2022. 17 shooters were below the age of 10, and 221 victims were adults. As of November 2022, 2,499 people (students and adults, including teachers, office staff, parents, community members, and guardians) were either killed, wounded, or specifically targeted (but survived) a school shooting since 1971. Every one of the 50 states has had at least one school shooting since 1971, the exceptions being Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota.
As gun rights people would have it, and to illustrate the lunacy of the second amendment as some interpret it, the deterrent for a bad toddler with a gun would have been a good toddler with a gun.
The Eye of Roomba is Watching. According to the MIT Technology Review, A roomba took photos of a woman sitting on a toilet as it was vacuuming, sending its photos to “the cloud”. The photos ended up on Facebook. Roombas don’t normally send pictures to the cloud, but the owners of these particular Roombas were Roomba employees used as research subjects who signed a waiver. Amazon has recently purchased iRobot (the makers of Roomba) in a $1.7 billion deal. According to the MIT Review, “iRobot declined to let MIT Technology Review view the consent agreements and did not make any of its paid collectors or employees available to discuss their understanding of the terms.”
A bomb in a bum.
Click if you're OK with being weirded out
According to the UK Daily Mail, doctors had to clear the emergency ward and surrounding area when an 88 year-old man arrived in emergency at l’Hôpital Sainte Musse in Toulon, France with a World-war I artillery shell stuck in his rectum. In a procedure involving a bomb squad, the 8-inch long, 2-inch diameter antique shell was surgically removed and the man is recovering.
One way to get attention. According to the New York Times, the US Federal Aviation Agency revoked the pilot license of Trevor Jacob, who uploaded a 13-minute video of himself to YouTube of him crashing his plane in the Los Padres National Forest in California as he escaped by parachute. His video received 1.7 million views.
Burma Shave was a shaving cream sold by the jar, about the size of a jar of cold cream. It was a brushless shaving cream, competitive with similar shaving creams put out by Noxzema and Barbasol at the time. His brand was contemporary with these, first made in 1925 by the Burma Vita company of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In 1927, an advertising campaign was started by founder Clinton Odell, where short signs would be placed in regular intervals along the right side of highways. Each of the six short signs would contain the line of a possibly humorous rhyming poem, followed by the product name, Burma Shave.
Given that the vehicles of those days were either farily slow, or were of the horse-and-buggy variety, they were a way to keep the brand name in your head. It can be stated that billibard signs were not nearly as common yet. But after the Interstate system was built, and cars started to outmode the hose-drawn carriages, these signs got more expensive to maintain as there were much cheaper ways to advertise, including by radio and TV, which became popular after the 1950s.
By 1963, these signs were taken down across the United States, and many of them were donated to The Smithsonian Institute as cultural artefacts. Philip Morris, makers of the popular Marlboro cigarettes, purchased the company that year, the brand held its own over several decades, but soon faded by the end of the 20th century. By the 1990s, they were sold to the American Safety Razor Company, and an attempt was made to reintroduce the brand in 1997. However, the marketing landscape had changed radically by then, and Walmart had dropped products from that company from its lineup, and by 2010 The American Safety Razor Company had to file for bankruptcy.
But the cultural phenomenon they will always be known for are those signs — which have now been called “motion graphics” — not that the signs themselves were moving, but that instead the graphic required the viewer to move to see the successive signs.
For additional discussion about Burma Shave, you can surf here.
Hippo bites Kid. Near a lake in Katwe Kabatoro, Uganda a 2 year-old boy had half of his body swallowed alive by a hippopotamus. A bystander named Chrispas Bagonza began throwing rocks at the hungry hippo, causing the boy to be regurgitated. The boy had minor injuries and was treated in a nearby clinic and given rabies medication before being released back to his parents. While herbivorous, hippos can be aggressive and known to kill over 500 people per year in Africa. (16 Dec)
Almost worked. A driver on an HOV lane on Arizona’s Interstate 10 was pulled over and fined because the inflatable Grinch sitting in his passenger seat did not count as a real passenger. (17 Dec)
Foreign prisons. Sam Bankman-Fried, after being arrested for wire fraud and other crimes, had, up to a couple of days ago, been held in a prison in the Bahamas. The Fox Hill prison, where Bankman-Fried had been remanded, had been described by the US State Department as lacking mattresses and toilet facilities, as well as being infested with rats, maggots and other insects. After paying a $250 million dollar bond, he flew back to his parent’s home to await trial on American Airlines (Business class), and had to surrender his passport after landing as he awaits a federal trial over the future of the failed cryptocurrency firm FTX. (14 Dec)(23 Dec)
This installment has one or two “news-oids” that involve themes of violence and death. These are hidden below under spoiler tags. Click if you wish to read anyway.
More things to worry about.
There is a condition known as “Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome” (POIS), where you can become allergic to your own orgasms. Most doctors are unfamiliar with the condition so it rarely gets diagnosed. A 27 year-old man living in California showed up in hosital after developing an allergy to his own orgasms. Since age 19, following ejaculation, he would develop flu-like symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes, hives on his forearms, coughing and sneezing. (12 Oct)
Only in Florida.
As drivers William Hale of Georgia and Frank Allison of Callahan, Florida were both driving erratically from Jacksonville, both began to exchange gunfire as they were driving. Both had their daughters as passengers with them at the time, and both daughters were struck by gunfire from each other’s guns. One of the girls suffered a collapsed lung. (13 Oct)
If your avatar dies, you die.
30 year-old Palmer Luckey invented a virtual reality headset which allows you to participate in a virtual reality game, where if you die in the game, it is programmed to kill the user of the headset also. Luckey himself has not tried on his own headset, and it is currently not for sale. (7 Nov)
Dog Bites Man. A blind man named Kyle Maxwell is suing City of Memphis when a police dog bit him without warning. (10 Oct)
Man Bites Dog. In Germany, a man joined in an “extremely aggressive” dispute with 2 others, and while placed on charges of resisting arrest, the man bit a police dog. The canine showed no injuries. (14 Oct)